Taipei is a wonderfully smooth blend of countless influences that combine to make a city which is not easy to unravel but undoubtedly worth the effort. It is a destination that can cause visitors to feel they have not scratched it's deliciously layered surface even after weeks of adventure.
Be it losing yourself in one of the many astounding festivals Taipei prides itself in, attempting to sample each delicacy hidden within the impossibly vibrant street markets or journeying on foot through a city that feels like a living museum, Taipei welcomes all and promises experiences unable to be obtained anywhere else. Here are ten of the best that you most certainly should not limit yourself to.
10 10. Scale Taipei 101
Once the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101 is, without doubt, the best way to cast an astounded glance across the entire city. Race to the 89th floor observation deck in the world’s fastest elevator to enjoy an unobstructed 360-degree view of this vast, imposing metropolis.
Taipei comes alive amidst a burst of color once the sun sets, making the evening a perfect time to visit this incredible building designed to resemble a bamboo stalk. A trip here will also grant a front row seat to marvel at the 730-ton stabilizing ball in its center that prevents the skyscraper tumbling, should a powerful earthquake hit Taipei.
9 9. Eat Way Too Much At Din Tai Fung
This Michelin Star restaurant now has branches all over the globe, but to experience the most authentic version available, dumpling lovers simply must make the pilgrimage to its birthplace, Xinyi Road in Taipei.
Once named in the New York Times Top 10 Restaurants in the world, this is the globe’s most affordable food to have been recognized by the Michelin Guide. Order as many of the soup dumplings or ‘xiaolongbao’ as you think you can eat and then order more. They are so unique and wonderful you will never be able to get enough.
8 8. Bathe In Thermal Springs At The Foot Of A Dormant Volcano
Accessible via the extremely easy-to-use MRT public train system, Beitou rests at the base of Yangming Mountain in Northern Taipei, and the hot springs here provide travelers with a rapturous relax in the cooling shadow of a dormant volcano.
Originally developed by Japanese settlers, the area still retains several Japanese structures such as museums and temples that are a delight to explore. Other hot springs are spread throughout Taipei but for the total experience, you can’t go past Beitou.
7 7. Ride A YouBike Along Taipei’s Riverside Parks
The cost of renting a bike in Taipei is so low that there is no better, or more thrifty, way to spend a day exploring thanks to the city's well-maintained and relatively flat dedicated cycling tracks.
Register for a metro card to get started or simply use your credit card to unlock a bike and once your adventure draws to a close simply return it to one of the hundreds of drop-off points across the city.
Notable spots worth viewing from a saddle are the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Dajia Riverside Park and Songshan Ciyou Temple. Of course, you could just follow the Jingmei Riveras far as your legs will take you. Just remember you need to save some energy for the return trip.
6 6. View The Power Of Nature Yehliu Geopark
Yehliu is a narrow cape that juts out into the sea and features incredible rock formations that have been crafted by nothing more than history and wind. Approaching a lunar-style landscape, travelers have been marveling at the natural wonder along the east coast since the 19th Century.
Unquestionably the most popular formation is the stony shape of a queen’s head, so much so that it generally has a line of camera-wielding tourists waiting their turn to capture the personified natural creation. Getting to Yehliu is simple, with the easiest option a shuttle bus from Taipei that will also give you time to experience the majestic Jiufen and Shifen waterfalls.
5 5. Ride The Pingxi Small Train Line To Cat Village
For something a little different and certainly an ‘only in Taipei’ activity, a day on the Pingxi small train is just the ticket. Containing 9 stops, the train line grants access to stunning mountain villages that in turn offer hiking trails for all levels of fitness.
One of the more well-known destinations is Houtong, or the Cat Village. Formally a coal mining town, its claim to notoriety now is the resident felines that own the streets. Beginning in 2008 when a local animal lover began to care for the resident strays, Houtong is now overrun with the furry creatures and tourists travel from far and wide to spend time in what has become their haven.
4 4. Conquer Cliffs & Crags On Crazy Climbs
Should you wish to experience some truly adventurous hiking, Taipei has you covered there too. Striking a perfect balance between strenuous effort and accessibility, there are several day hikes that just about anyone could tackle with relative ease.
If sheer, vertical drops are your cup of Taiwanese tea, then Pingxi Crags is the one for you. Despite sturdy ladders and ropes making the trail extremely safe, there will be several moments that have you feeling the nervous shivers of an old-time explorer.
Huangdi Dian in the Shiding District may also fit the bill with its uphill slog that opens up to reveal a glorious view that goes hand-in-hand with a stroll along a narrow ridge. Do you dare look down?
3 3. Get Your Daily Workout On Elephant Mountain
You should always be prepared to sweat in Taipei, but should you choose to undertake Elephant Mountain, maybe pack a spare shirt in your backpack because this is the pinnacle. Totaling no more than 30 minutes to reach the first unparalleled viewing platform, it is not a lengthy jaunt but it is a steep one.
Containing primarily large steps carved into the mountain, the view that greets you from the three main viewing areas will be more than worth that burning feeling in your legs. Make the ascent at sunset for the most picturesque and photogenic views, just watch your step.
2 2. Nights Markets - Raohe Street Night Market
One of the oldest and most traditional markets in Taipei, Raohe Street covers over 600 meters and houses the best and brightest from the region in terms of food, art, and iconic Taiwanese items.
Be sure to turn up here with an empty stomach because the sights and smells that greet you cannot be resisted. Sample the oyster noodles, pepper meat buns, seafood such as crispy crab and grilled squid and those feeling adventurous are encouraged to taste the red-hot, spicy chicken. Just make sure you have a bubble tea on hand to quell the inevitable raging fire.
1 1. The Taipei Lantern Festival
This remarkable festival is actually a combination of events known collectively as 'Fireworks in the South, Sky Lanterns in the North'. In the Pingxi District, thousands of lanterns take to the night sky bearing wishes and images relating to their creators. While in the Yanshui District, fireworks play the role of illuminators in an ancient tradition that originally celebrated the warding off of evil and disease from the area.
The Lantern Festival takes place each year and is a truly unique and unforgettable event that has to be experienced personally to appreciate. Plan your trip around this unmatched spectacle, you won't regret it.